Top Nigerian Muslim preacher calls for unity against Boko Haram

Updated 26 May 2014

Top Nigerian Muslim preacher calls for unity against Boko Haram

ABUJA, : The leader of Nigeria’s Muslims on Sunday called for followers of the faith to unite against Boko Haram extremists, pledging the government full support to ensure their defeat.
But the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, also said the government should address issues of inequality toward Muslims, which have been seen as factors in fueling the five-year insurgency.
“Terrorism has no place in Islam,” he told a congregation, including Nigeria’s Vice President Namadi Sambo, clerics and traditional rulers, at the National Mosque in the capital, Abuja.
“We must rise up, as always, with one voice to condemn all acts of terrorism, condemn those terrorists wherever they are and try our possible best as Muslims to ensure peace reigns in our community.”
The Sultan, who is president of Nigeria’s Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, has come under pressure to speak out against Boko Haram, who have killed thousands in their quest for an Islamic state in the north of the country.
On Friday, he announced a national day of “prayer for peace and security” with the aim of “overcoming the current security challenges facing the country.”
In his first public comments since the militants kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls from the remote northeastern town of Chibok last month, he said Muslims were disturbed by the bloodshed.
“We are committed to helping the government at all levels to bring peace in Nigeria. Whatever we can do, as long as it is not against Islam, we are ready to do it 100 percent,” he added.
“We have to make it very clear... that the situation in the country is very serious. You are fighting enemies with no boundary. Terrorists are everywhere. They are among us but we don’t know them.”
Abubakar said the situation was worse than during Nigeria’s brutal civil war from 1967 to 1970 because of the shadowy nature of Boko Haram’s fighters and their guerrilla campaign.
“In this case, you don’t know the enemy. The person sitting next to you might be one of those terrorists. You don’t know,” he said.
“It is a very serious situation and we have to close ranks as Muslims, we have to close ranks as Nigerians, irrespective of ethnic or political divide, and not play politics with insecurity.”
Nigeria’s north is majority Muslim and is poorer than the oil and gas-rich, largely Christian south. Years of social and economic blight have been seen as a recruiting tool for marginalized and disaffected young men to Boko Haram’s cause.
The Sultan said addressing inequality would help tackle the problem.
“Muslims want and also demand to be treated with equality, with justice, with fairness and, Inshallah (god willing), things will turn around,” he added.
Boko Haram has made repeated threats against Nigeria’s ancient Islamic monarchies, including the Sultan of Sokoto, the Emir of Kano and the Shehu of Borno, who is based in the group’s northeastern stronghold.
The Kano and Borno based clerics have both survived assassination attempts by Boko Haram.
The group accuses these leaders of betraying Islam by submitting to the authority of Nigeria’s secular government.
Some analysts as a result doubt how effective the Islamic monarchs can be in helping stem the violence, which has already killed more than 2,000 people this year.
But a senior Nigerian intelligence source told AFP on Friday that bolder action by the Sultan and his allies “would have sent a clear message to Boko Haram that they don’t represent Muslim interests.”
“Had the Muslim clerics in the north been mobilized by the Sultan to challenge Boko Haram intellectually via a common platform, it would have exposed the emptiness and the folly of (the insurgents’) deviant ideology,” he said.


Pakistan influence over Taliban can help, envoy says

Updated 43 sec ago

Pakistan influence over Taliban can help, envoy says

ISLAMABAD: The Afghan President’s Special Envoy for Pakistan Mohammed Umer Daudzai said on Wednesday that Pakistan should use its influence over the Taliban to help break a deadlock in peace talks between the insurgent group and Kabul, but warned that Islamabad should push the Taliban to support democracy.
Talks between an Afghan government delegation and the Taliban have been ongoing in Doha since mid-September, but progress has been slow and rising violence has sapped trust.
According to the UN, nearly 6,000 Afghan civilians have been killed or wounded in the first nine months of the year as heavy fighting between government forces and Taliban insurgents rages on despite efforts to find peace.
The peace talks follow a deal in February between the USs and the Taliban that will pave the way for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, who agreed to negotiate a permanent ceasefire and a power-sharing formula with Kabul.
“We are pleased at the agreement between the Taliban and the US; it has proved that Pakistan has influence on the Taliban,” Daudzai told Arab News.
“Since they have influence, so they should also help us. This is our expectation. Pakistan has not refused to help us. They have also not denied their influence (on the Taliban).”
Neighboring Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan has for years been ambiguous — it is a US ally but is also accused of supporting the Taliban as its proxy in Afghanistan, part of its wider jockeying with regional rival India. Islamabad denies this. It also insists its influence with the Taliban has waned over the years.
“Pakistani leaders know our position as what do we want, what do we expect from them. But when and how will they do that is up to them.
But we want urgent actions,” Daudzai said, adding that the Afghan government expected Pakistan to support democracy in Afghanistan.
He said Prime Minister Imran Khan would hold “detailed discussions” on the peace process with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani when they met in Kabul later this year.